Norilsk

Norilsk

[nuh-reelsk; Russ. nuh-ryeelsk]
Norilsk, city (1989 pop. 175,000), Krasnoyarsk Territory, N Siberian Russia. The northernmost major city of Russia and the world's second largest city (after Murmansk) above the Arctic Circle, Norilsk is the center of a region where nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum, and coal are mined. A railroad links Norilsk with the Yenisei port of Dudinka, from where ores are shipped via the Northern Sea Route to European Russia. Hydroelectric plants are nearby and natural gas is found in Tyumen. Founded in 1935, Norilsk was the site of forced labor camps during the Stalin era.

Norilsk (Нори́льск) is a major city in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia. It was granted city status in 1953. It is the northernmost city in Siberia and the world's second largest city (after Murmansk) above the Arctic Circle. Norilsk with Yakutsk and Vorkuta are the only large cities in the continuous permafrost zone. Norilsk is also the northernmost city on the planet with a population over 100,000. Population: MMC Norilsk Nickel, a mining company, is the principal employer in the Norilsk area. The city is served by Norilsk Alykel Airport and Norilsk Valek Airfield. Due to the intense mining, the city is one of the ten most polluted cities in the world, with, according to CNN, not a single living tree within 48 km of the nickel smelter Nadezhda ("The Hope").

Demografic Evolution
1939 1959 1962 1967 1970 1973 1976
14 000 118 000 117 000 129 000 135 000 150 000 167 000
1979 1982 1989 1992 1998 2002 2005
180 400 183 000 174 673 165 400 151 200 134 832 131 900

History

The settlement of Norilsk was founded by the end of the 1920s; however, the official date of founding is traditionally set to 1935, when Norilsk was expanded as a settlement for the Norilsk mining-metallurgic complex and became the center of the Norillag system of GULAG labor camps. It was granted the status of urban settlement in 1939.

Norilsk, located between the West Siberian Plain and Central Siberian Plateau at the foot of the 1,700-metre-high Putoran Mountains, is situated on some of the largest nickel deposits on Earth. Consequently, mining and smelting ore are the major industries. Norilsk is the center of a region where nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum, palladium, and coal are mined. Mineral deposits in the Siberian Craton had been known for two centuries before Norilsk was founded, but mining began only in 1939, when the buried portions of the Norilsk-Talnakh intrusions were found beneath mountainous terrain.

Talnakh is the major mine/enrichment site now from where an enriched ore emulsion is pumped to Norilsk metallurgy plants.

To support the new city a railway to the port of Dudinka on the Yenisei River was established. From this port enriched nickel and copper are transported to Murmansk by sea then to the Monchegorsk enrichment plant on the Kola Peninsula, while more precious content goes up the river to Kransnoyarsk. This transportation only takes place during the summer: Dudinka port is closed and dismantled during spring's ice barrier floods of up to 20 m in late May (a typical spring occurrence on all Siberian rivers). Another railway was under construction from the European coal city Vorkuta via the Salekhard/Ob River, but construction stopped there after Stalin died.

According to the archives of Norillag, 16,806 prisoners died in Norilsk under the conditions of forced labor, starvation, and intense cold throughout the existence of the camp (1935-1956)  Fatalities were especially high during the war years of 1942-1944 when food supplies were particularly scarce. The prisoners organised a nonviolent revolt (Norilsk uprising) in 1953. Unknown but significant numbers of prisoners continued to serve and die in the mines until around 1979. Norilsk-Talknakh continues to be a dangerous mine to work in: According to the mining company, there were 2.4 accidents per thousand workers in 2005.

In 2001, Norilsk was decreed a closed city for foreigners (except citizens of Belarus). This is likely because of the sensitive nature of the nickel-platinum-palladium-copper mining, and the ICBM missile silos nestled in the Putoran Mountains nearby.

The city is also the nearest to the famous Popigai crater. The mosque of Norilsk, belonging to the Tatar community, is considered to be the northernmost Muslim prayer house in the world.

Norilsk-Talnakh nickel deposits

The nickel deposits of Norilsk-Talnakh are the largest nickel-copper-palladium deposits in the world. The deposit was formed 250 million years ago during the eruption of the Siberian Traps igneous province (STIP). The STIP erupted over one million cubic kilometres of lava, a large portion of it through a series of flat-lying lava conduits lying below Norilsk and the Talnakh Mountains.

The ore was formed when the erupting magma became saturated in sulfur, forming globules of pentlandite, chalcopyrite, and other sulfides. These sulfides were then "washed" by the continuing torrent of erupting magma, and upgraded their tenor with nickel, copper, platinum, and palladium.

The current resource known for these mineralised intrusion exceeds 1.8 billion tons. MMC Norilsk Nickel, headquartered in Moscow, is the principal mining operator in Norilsk-Talnakh. The ore is mined underground via several shafts, and a decline. The ore deposits are currently being extracted at more than 1,200 m below ground. The ore deposits are drilled from the surface.

The deposits are being explored by a Russian Government-controlled company. The company is known to be using electromagnetic field geophysics, with loops on surface which are over 1,000 m on a side. They are conclusively able to image the conductive nickel ore at depths in excess of 1,800 m.

Environment

Pollution problems

The nickel ore is smelted on site at Norilsk. The smelting is directly responsible for severe pollution, generally acid rain and smog. By some estimates, 1 percent of the entire global emissions of sulfur dioxide comes from this one city. Heavy metal pollution near Norilsk is so severe that it is now economically feasible to mine the soil, which has been polluted so severely that it has economic grades of platinum and palladium.

The Blacksmith Institute included Norilsk in its 2007 list of the ten most polluted places on Earth. The list cites air pollution by particulates (including radioisotopes strontium-90, and caesium-137 and heavy metals nickel, copper, cobalt, lead and selenium) and by gases (such as nitrogen and carbon oxides, sulfur dioxide, phenols and hydrogen sulfide). The Institute estimates 4 million tons of cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, arsenic, selenium and zinc are released into the air every year.

According to an April 2007 BBC News report, the company accepted responsibility for what had happened to the forests, but insisted they were taking action to cut the pollution. For the period up to 2015-2020 the company expects to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by approximately two-thirds, but admits it is hard to guarantee this pace of reduction because they are still developing the technology.

Climate

Norilsk has an extremely harsh climate. Average temperature is approximately −10 degrees Celsius, temperatures as low as −58 degrees have been recorded. The city is covered with snow for about 250-270 days a year, with snow storms for about 110-130 days. The polar night lasts from December through mid-January, so that Norilsk inhabitants do not see the sun at all for about six weeks.

Norilsk in popular culture

The memoir With God in Russia by Walter Ciszek details life in the prison camps of Norilsk in the 1950s.

Although not actually having been filmed in Norilsk, the city is depicted in the 1985 film White Nights, starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines. During the opening moments of the film, Baryshnikov's character, a Soviet defector, is on a passenger plane that crash lands at "Norilsk Air Base."

Martin Amis' 2007 novel House of Meetings takes place in part at a Gulag labor camp based on Norilsk.

Artist Andrey Bartenev was born in Norilsk; many years ago his grandfather was sent to work in the nickel smelting plant.

World All-Around Champion (1983) gymnast Natalia Yurchenko was born in Norilsk.

References

  • Obshhestvo "Memorial", Regional Branch "Siberia": Norilskaya golgofa. Krasnoyarsk: Izd-vo "Klaretianum", 2002 

External links

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